Pregnant women experience intense hormonal changes affecting almost every part of daily life. This goes for sex, too, and while it may be the last thing on their mind for some, others feel like they just can’t get enough.
But is it safe to have sex during pregnancy? The short answer is yes. Sex can occur during a ‘normal’ pregnancy, even in the final weeks. It can have serious benefits to the body and mind of the pregnant woman and the relationship with their partner.
But, as with all things pregnancy related, there are plenty of things to consider. Let’s take a closer look.
Is sex during pregnancy safe?
Sexual activity, including intercourse, is considered safe during a low-risk pregnancy and does not typically cause miscarriage. Miscarriages often occur due to genetic or chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo, problems with the development of the foetus, or underlying health conditions of the mother. The opposite is true— many doctors recommend sex for relaxation and stress relief, benefiting both partners.
Your doctor can provide personalised guidance based on your specific medical history, the progress of your pregnancy, and any potential risk factors. Following professional instructions will help you ensure your and your baby’s safety and well-being.
Sex during pregnancy is also about feeling safe and secure with your partner. Maintaining a healthy and supportive relationship with them and prioritising emotional and physical well-being is vital throughout pregnancy. Sex is an effective part of that, and other intimate activities, such as kissing, cuddling, or massage, will also de-stress both partners and help avoid future complications such as postpartum depression. It will also foster a sense of togetherness, which some couples say they lose during pregnancy, and boost mental wellness.
When not to have sex
These are situations when a pregnant woman should avoid or abstain from sex.
- High-risk pregnancies: If you have a high-risk pregnancy due to a history of miscarriage, preterm labour, cervical insufficiency, placenta previa, or preeclampsia, your doctor may advise against sexual activity to reduce the risk of complications. In these cases, it is crucial to follow your doctor’s recommendations.
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding: It is important to contact your doctor if you experience unexplained vaginal bleeding at any point during your pregnancy. They may advise abstaining from sexual activity until the cause of the bleeding is determined and appropriate treatment is provided.
- Ruptured membranes: If your water breaks (ruptured membranes) or there is a risk of preterm labour, sexual activity is generally recommended to be avoided. This is to reduce the risk of infection or further complications.
- Certain medical procedures: Following certain procedures during pregnancy, such as cervical cerclage (a stitch placed in the cervix to provide support) or assisted reproductive techniques, your doctor may advise against sexual activity for a specified period to allow for proper healing and reduce the risk of complications.
Best positions during pregnancy
During pregnancy, some sexual positions may be more comfortable and suitable than others due to changes in your body and the growing baby bump. Here are a few sexual positions that many pregnant individuals find comfortable:
- Spooning: This position involves lying on your side with your partner behind you, facing the same direction. It allows for intimate contact while supporting and minimising pressure on the abdomen.
- Side-lying: Lie on your side facing your partner, with your partner also on their side facing you. This position allows for close physical contact and is gentle on the body.
- Woman on top: You can straddle your partner while they lie on their back. This position gives you control over depth and pace, allowing you to find a comfortable position that avoids putting pressure on your abdomen.
- Modified missionary: In the traditional missionary position, use pillows or cushions to elevate your upper body slightly. This adjustment can alleviate pressure on the abdomen and provide better comfort.
Can sex cause during pregnancy labour?
Sexual activity, including orgasm, can potentially stimulate contractions in the uterus, and this is due to the release of oxytocin, a hormone that can trigger uterine contractions. However, it is important to note that while sex can potentially stimulate contractions, it is unlikely to induce labour unless your body is prepared for it to begin.
Here are a few key points to consider:
- Full-term pregnancy: Engaging in sexual activity to induce labour is generally only relevant after reaching full term (around 37 weeks or later). Before this stage, the baby may not be fully developed or ready for birth.
- Individual factors: The effects of sexual activity on labour induction can vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience contractions or mild cramping afterwards, while others may not notice any immediate changes.
- Combination of factors: Sexual activity alone is unlikely to trigger labour if the cervix is not yet ripe (softened, thinned, and dilated) and the body is not showing other signs of being ready for labour. It is often a combination of factors, such as hormonal changes, cervical ripening, and other physiological cues, that initiate delivery.
- Consult with a doctor: Before attempting to use sexual activity to induce labour, it is crucial to consult with a professional. They can assess your situation, consider potential risks or contraindications, and provide guidance based on your circumstances.
Remember, there is no foolproof method to predict or control the onset of labour.
Warning signs of sex during pregnancy
If you experience the following, stop having sex immediately, and consult your doctor.
Vaginal bleeding: If you notice any vaginal bleeding, whether light spotting or heavy bleeding, it’s important to notify your doctor. While light spotting can sometimes occur after sexual activity due to increased blood flow to the cervix, heavy bleeding or persistent bleeding could be a sign of a more serious issue and should be evaluated as quickly as possible.
Abdominal or pelvic pain:
If you experience intense or persistent abdominal or pelvic pain after sex, it could be a cause for concern. Sharp or severe pain, particularly if accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or shoulder pain, may indicate a potential problem and should be evaluated by a doctor.
If you notice a sudden gush or continuous leakage of fluid from the vagina after sexual activity, it could indicate the rupture of the amniotic sac (water breaking). This could be a sign of preterm labour or premature rupture of membranes, and immediate medical attention is necessary.
While mild contractions can sometimes occur after orgasm or sexual activity, if you experience regular, painful contractions that persist and increase in intensity or frequency could be a sign of preterm labour. Contact your doctor if you have concerns about contractions.
Decreased foetal movement:
If you notice a significant decrease in foetal movement after sexual activity, it’s important to contact your doctor. While it’s common for foetal movement to fluctuate throughout the day, a significant and persistent decrease may require evaluation to ensure the baby’s well-being.
There are many benefits to be had from having sex during pregnancy. In a time of great change, physically, mentally, and practically (that house won’t be baby-proof itself!), it can be an enjoyable way to relax and have a pleasurable, intimate time with your partner. But, as they say, read the label (and, of course, consult your doctor).
Evan is the founder of Fertility2Family and is passionate about fertility education & providing affordable products to help people in their fertility journey. Evan is a qualified enrolled nurse and has expertise in guiding & managing patients through their fertility journeys.